Progressives. Meek Greene. Strangers in Strange Place

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Campaign ’10: Meek v Greene [1st Debate Overview]

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

More than a month has passed, actually now it has been two.  In the third week of June, I heard the song in my head for the first time. With each day that passes the volume increases.  Friends, family, and familiars were privy to what has been a curiosity for me. Still haunted by what I know needs to be shared farther and wider, today I tell you my tale.  The story begins with two Florida Democrats.  Each aspires to fill the one open United States Senate seat.  The date; June 22, 2010.  I was amongst those invited to attend the initial Meek Greene debate.. The place?  The Palm Beach Post headquarters.   The time? Midday.  The reality realized and the reason my mind marinated in the melody titled It’s About Time. Today, Democrats, Progressives are not as they were.

I knew this was true and have for quite some time.  Still, never was this veracity as stark as it appeared to me on that day.   Oh yes.  Daily, none of us escapes what fills the airwaves.  We have heard the newer definitions and seen greater divisions within the Party; indeed, the population, for years.  During election seasons yours and my mailbox burst with messages, all of which signal the metamorphosis.   Often, in most every campaign, “It is about time, about space, and about two men [or women] in the strangest place.”  The difference for me, is blatancy.

A close comparison, face-to-face with the candidates, the two campaigns, persons in the crowd, and the strange circumstances that surround each of these, magnified what is evident everyday.  Amongst the audience alone, there were Democratic loyalists, persons with a strong  commitment to the Party.  Independents, people from the Press, there only to cover a story took their chairs.  Present were former Republicans, individuals who did not identify their preference, and those truly enamored with a billionaire’s earnings.  Then, there were a few such as me.  I value the common good, government of, by, and for all people.  The commonweal, I believe, is the basis for all that ensures a quality life, liberty and the possible pursuit of happiness.  We were a somewhat skewed sampling of the electorate. Within the Senatorial candidates and campaigns one could see aspects of any or all of us.

Their beliefs, background, and circumstances that brought each challenger to this scene were as dissimilar as the makeup of the spectators.  Jeff Greene led a lavish life of luxury and indulgence.  Even in the hard times, he managed to attend all the best schools and work in exclusive environs.  

Kendrick Meek has a skeleton in his closet, or at least that is how Mister Greene framed the phenomenon.  That aside, Senatorial hopeful Meek has a far more humble background.  He is and has always been an average American, amongst the working class.  Despite his less than glamorous childhood; he has achieved. Ultimately, Mister Meek worked his way into the Halls of Congress.  Currently, he serves Floridians in the United States House of Representatives.    Separately and together the two personify the strangeness of the times we live in and the dilemma that has become Democratic politics.

In 2010, Democrats are a divided bunch.  Perhaps, they always were.  Near a century ago, Will Rogers asserted, “I do not belong to an organized political Party.  I am a Democrat.”  At present, a far Left fringe and followers of a more conservative liberal agenda are self-identified Progressives.   As one author observed, Beware of the Progressive Democrat.  Helen Redmond cautions against a “Party of Lemmings.”  One might wonder . . .

What Do Progressives Believe?

When I was younger, I trusted that Democrats believed in social equality.  Those who identified themselves as advocates for democracy, a principle that speaks to government of, by, and for the people, marked off the box on their voter registration forms that denotes, “Democrat.”  However, slowly, over the decades, a silent transition occurred.  

Democrats began to define themselves as “Progressives,” or at least many did.  Unlike a score ago, when a large body of research revealed “that individuals were frequently unable to correctly identify their ideology, unlikely to express an ideologically constrained set of political values, and unable to consistently use ideology to inform their political preferences in a coherent way,” today individual survey respondents  report a preference for  an ideology that does not fit neatly into the conventional  liberal or conservative categories.  

Polarization has come to define political elites and the common people. People presume that labels are legitimate.  The latest examination of the electorate exposes what is evident through Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek.

Let the Debate Begin. Pundits, Press, the Public Define Progressive Positions

The opening scene began with little fanfare.  The dynamic duo, or applicants for the United States Senate seat, walked onto what sufficed for a stage, and spoke to citizen concerns.

Democratic Party neophyte, frequently featured CNBC guest speaker, The Man Who Shorted the Subprime Market, also known as a billionaire, Jeff Greene espoused his expertise.  Next to him, and there to promote his past performance, as well, was United States Congressman Kendrick Meek.  

Years earlier, the specifics of what each said, would not have been defined as democratic.  Today, we see this novel truth daily. Countless Democrats, moderates, conservatives, and liberal, call their positions Progressive. Studies seem to support  the divergence that has occurred.  For me, the hour and one half encapsulated what had occurred over time and in the vast space we classify as America.

The candidates posited their “Progressive” practices.  Humanitarian travels were amongst Greene’s treasure trove.  A trip to an island Republic, certainly would calm the United States, Cuban conflict. Further investigation revealed that Cuban American affairs were not Mister Greene’s priority.  Personal purchases played a primary role in what was professed to be a charitable  mission.  

Kendrick Meek humbly offered his own openhanded gestures. He unassumingly touched on his work in Haiti.  The Congressman never mentioned the banner headline; Haiti tragedy puts Kendrick Meek in spotlight,  his record. or the ample documentation to support his claims.  

Congressman Meek has often been characterized as an actual Progressive by numerous reputable and respected organizations.  On many themes the Representative speaks and votes  as a more liberal person might.  However, whether or not Mister Meek is an authentic Progressive, well, that depends on who you ask and what actions you assess.

For persons who favor a fuller, more robust reform than we have seen enacted, Kendrick Meek can be quite regressive and Progressive. Thus, the dilemma for persons in the audience such as me.  I felt  and feel immersed in a strange time, at a strange place,  almost as though I were in outer space.

The only clear consensus; corruption.  Weeks before the big debate, billionaire Greene stressed what average Americans might think questionable, regardless of a Party affiliation.  Jeff Greene accused Kendrick Meek. and the Congressman’s Mom of being in the pocket of an arraigned developer.  Mister Meek responded then, and in this more public forum.  Meek maintained his innocence and addressed his association.  Jobs and development for Liberty City residents was the reason Representative Meek had any relationship with the local businessman.  

Surely a Progressive or a Democrat would declare that rationale just. Yet, what of Congressman Meek’s vote on House Resolution 310?  “It hands over  public lands to an organization that seeks to develop them for its own private uses.”

What might spur a shopping spree or justify a jaunt to Cuba with no visible altruistic intent?  Well, only Jeff Greene knows for sure and he has yet to suggest what might help a Progressive believe he had the people’s best interest at heart.  Evidence for such a claim cannot be easily unearthed.  Nonetheless, the candidates Campaign Manager, in a telephone conversation, assured me that aspirant Greene is absolutely a Progressive.

Emblematic of Elections and Electorate

During the formal appearance, and earlier in interviews held with the Editors, Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek outlined their stance on the issues.  Jeff Greene articulated his values and addressed his financial worth as well.  People’s interest was obviously peaked.  After all, money in America is not only a source of pride, as it is for the billionaire businessman; it is also scorned.  Dependent on your principles or principal a person could be impressed or disgusted by what they think decadence.  

Mister Greene was asked why he thinks himself the more priceless aspirant.  His response evoked thoughts for why he may not be.  Default swaps loomed large in this discussion.  Lead Journalists felt no need to focus on the topic when they addressed Congressman Meek. Issues were the central theme.

Environmental concerns, Mister Meek explained, was an issue that helped demonstrate his consistency.  His record on Education, Health Care, the Economy, and Veterans Affairs, Meek said helped to illustrate that he was a worker.  He has been and would be  there for the people.  In the Meek interview, credit default swaps were not the issue. The financial faultfinding the Editors found in regards to Congressman Meek was his action on overcrowded classrooms.  

Mister Meek believes that Legislators must fund schools as the class-size amendment states.  The candidate cries out in favor of a reasonable student-teacher ratio.  On this subject, Kendrick Meek does exemplify what I think is a Progressive point of view.  

However, only days before the debate Alex Sink, another supposed “Progressive” candidate, and I believe a life long Democrat who seeks the Governor’s seat, stated that she disagrees with Kendrick Meek on this issue.  Jeff Greene appears to stand silently on the subject, perhaps, in the corner of an overcrowded classroom. In this strange time, it would seem there is no safe place.  There are only strange locales where the song plays as background music.  Might we consider many a recent political and philosophical campaign in this country?

Hillary Clinton recently described a progressive as “someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we’re working together,” (CNN/You Tube Debate). The description offered by Center for American Progress is more precise. Their website explains, “As progressives we believe that America should be a country of boundless opportunity-where all people can better themselves through education, hard work, and the freedom to pursue their dreams. We believe this will only be achieved with an open and effective government that champions the common good over narrow self-interest, harnesses the strength of our diversity, and secures the rights and safety of its people.”

A different perspective is offered by the monthly magazine The Progressive which explains that since 1948 it has “steadfastly stood against militarism, the concentration of power in corporate hands, and the disenfranchisement of the citizenry.

While people and organizations might posture and proclaim an allegiance, what is perchance more real is The Role of Reputations.  Public opinion can be manipulated.  What the Press presents and persons choose to believe can build a movement.  Frequently, voters cast a ballot for or against an aspirant based solely on a sound bite,  Personal jabs can count more than a candidate’s record.

The Role of Reputation

Every person I spoke with before the two men entered the room had an impression of who the individuals might be. The records paved the way; nevertheless, in National, state, or local campaigns the Party, and or person who sets the agenda  will affect electoral outcomes.

Framing and funds to move the message mean more than a “fact” check.  Reputation rules.  A political hopeful will push possible hot buttons, posture, and pay for Press that promotes his or her position.  Personal attacks are preferable, perhaps more so today in a social media saturated society.  On the day of the debate as occurs daily on radio, television, blogs, and periodicals, Progressive politics are not the paramount issue.  Whether he [or she] was a newcomer to the Party or a ” career politician” matters more.

Alliances and allegiances also count.  When a candidate says they support the President and his policies this can work for or against him [or her].  Progressives might pounce, “panderer,” “Party pleaser,” or a person unwilling to really risk reform. On this single subject devoted Democrats have lost what would be their base.

War and Peace. Fund the Fight. Commit to End the Combat.

Congressman Meek supports global tranquility and a pay-as-you-go system.  Each could be considered a Progressive value.  However, in practice, the fiscally aware United States Representative, voted to fund further combat on credit.

Representative Meek recognizes and states, were we to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we, as a nation, would greatly reduce our expenses.  “The war was a reason for chest beating in many cases and saying we need to continue to fight in Iraq, not looking at the price tag,” Meek said. “When it comes down to the war, I think we have to have enough discipline to say when.”  Then, days later, just as he had on other occasions, Congressman Meek voted to continue the flow of cash for endless war.

Strange as the contrast between Representative Meek’s rhetoric, voting record, might be, these are nothing in comparison to the silence heard from the Greene campaign. When asked of the war in Afghanistan, Jeff Greene endorsed an eternal devotion to Israel.  (Meek agreed.)  Mister Greene assured the audience, military engagements in the Middle East would not diminish his dedication.

Jeff Greene (and Kendrick Meek) avowed loyalty to war and peace as though the two divergent possibilities could be one.  The Progressive populace, on the other hand, is more definitive.


Self-identified progressives appear to have a strong commitment to diplomacy in international relations and are predisposed to think of immigrants in a positive light. Zogby reports that 77% of progressives say that it is not America’s job to promote its values around the world and 97% think that our efforts in the war on terror should focus on reducing anti-American sentiment rather than on military force. . .

Activist progressives identified by Pew are even more likely to be dovish in their approach to military affairs than liberals. For instance, 96% of activist progressives think that diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace compared to 76% of liberals. About 78% of activist progressives believe that the United States should take its allies’ interests into account even if it means making compromises with them and 93% agreed that it is acceptable to refuse to fight in a war one believes to be morally wrong..

Then there is the issue of tax and spend.  Did the candidates think it wise to allocate Federal funds to forward America’s future?  As a United States Senator, would Mister Meek or Mister Greene vote to invest even more money in a Military Industrial Complex?  Would either work to endow the infrastructure, education, environmental research, or expand the development of renewable fuels? Perhaps the answer is revealed in personal realities.  Historically, how have Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene handled their own taxes? Obfuscation and again the role of reputation reign in the Greene rhetoric .  Representative Meek returns to his theme, the record.

Tax and Spend

Traditionally, a “Progressive” tax structure is one that charges those with higher incomes.  This is, usually, a prospect that Democrats endorse.  As one would expect, Florida Democrat and candidate for the United States Senate, Kendrick Meek supports such a system.  On this issue, Citizens for Tax Justice with an established thirty-year mission of “working for a fair and sustainable tax system” rated Congressman Meek’s record 100% in support of a Progressive tax.  Citizens for Tax Justice and Congressman Meek advocate for  “Taxation that minimizes distortion of economic markets,” CTJ and Kendrick Meek also think it necessary to “Require the wealthy to pay their fair share.”

Neither are philosophies reformed Reagan Republican Greene, from his actions, would favor.  The fiscally very flush candidate nay his wife, think such an agenda serves them well.  When asked Will Jeff Greene release his tax returns? they exclaimed in chorus, “Hell no!”

Ah; the paradox. For Democrats, and or Progressives this is truly a strange time, a strange place and these two men are in the strangest place, or they are but a reflection of a novel reality.  For me, personally, favoritism for other than the greater good is extraordinary.  In a country where all men are believed to be equal I struggle to understand.  Thus, as I cast my ballot for the candidate that offers a chance at meaningful reforms, Congressman Meek, I could not help but think of America and the newly adopted ballad; Look What They’ve Done to My Song.

Reformers and References . . .